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A decade ago, the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Despite worldwide protest and a lack of UN authorization, 200,000 thousand troops deployed into Iraq in March of 2003, following massive airstrikes. The coalition faced minimal opposition, and Baghdad quickly fell. For years after President George W. Bush's "mission accomplished" speech, the war raged on, fueled by sectarian conflicts, al Qaeda insurgencies, outside agencies, and mismanagement of the occupation. Ten years later, we look back in a three-part series. Today's entry focuses on the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq, and the weeks immediately following. This entry is part 1 of 3, be sure to see part 2, and part 3. [50 photos]

Smoke covers Saddam Hussein's presidential palace compound during a massive US-led air raid on Baghdad, Iraq on March 21, 2003. Allied forces unleashed a devastating blitz on Baghdad, triggering giant fireballs and deafening explosions and sending huge mushroom clouds above the city center. Missiles slammed into the main palace complex of President Saddam Hussein on the bank of the Tigris River, and key government buildings. (Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images)

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It seems fitting that Massimo Berruti was holed up in the Swat Valley in Pakistan for three months early this year, right around the time when dozens of other photographers were off shooting the Arab Spring. The war in the Pashtun tribal territories long predates this year’s conflicts—and is likely to last far longer too. The result of Berruti’s long stay, the exhibition and book Lashkars, is a powerful body of work of conflict photography, yet it has a more lasting feel than much of the work that’s emerged from this year’s tumult. That sense of permanence was the point of the commission, the second Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award, in what’s become an annual competition. The foundation says it aims to support in-depth photojournalism at a time of “a several financing crisis.”

Berruti, an Italian photographer represented by VU, based in Paris and Rome, has little interest here in the war on terror, American drone attacks or even, for that matter, death. The Lashkars are Pashtun civilian militia, which have fought the Taliban for control of their valley for years, with tacit acknowledgement of the Pakistan Army, yet with little concrete support. And it’s their grinding, even humdrum daily existence along the amorphous frontier land which intrigues him.

The black-and-white images are quiet and emotionally ambiguous. In one, a young man stands in front of the rubble of his parents’ home, aiming a rifle at the sky. Is he shooting at some invisible drone miles above? We don’t know. In fact, Berruti says, he’s an 18-year-old Pakistan-born Londoner called Jalal Khan, who’s returned to his village to marry a childhood friend. The rubble isn’t from a drone attack, but from Taliban fighters who’ve destroyed the family house in retaliation for the Khans’ anti-Taliban views. In another image, a child carries a tree branch past the bombed-out ruins of a Taliban commander’s house. But it’s not just a photo depicting a boy collecting firewood. The children are claiming back their neighborhood, by stripping the trees around the commander’s house. “It was a sign of freedom and emancipation,” Berruti says.

The exhibition’s textured portrayal of the area extends to the spectacular valley and mountains, which you might have expected Berruti—who loves shooting panoramas—to photograph. Instead, Berruti’s used his artist’s eye to offer something far more timeless: A painted mural of the landscape, which is pasted across the wall of a gas station. There’s a jagged crack down the side of the wall, a sign that this tourist idyll once known as Pakistan’s Switzerland is a deeply disputed place.

Despite the presence of guns and rifles everywhere, the conflict is off-stage. It’s so part of normal life that the business of fighting and killing hardly needs photographing. The story of war is instead etched into people’s faces, like the lined forehead of Saidbacha, the chief in Mahnbanr, who sits holding his pistol, gazing into the lens with what looks like a smirk. “He was the first to engage in battle against the Taliban before the Army arrived, and told me he’d killed four Taliban with his own hands,” Berruti says.

This was no easy world to penetrate, even for Berruti, who first traveled to the area in 2008. He kept secret his prize money—a whopping €50,000 ($68,000)—fearing that local chiefs might demand a cut in exchange for allowing him to work there. He also labored hard for permission to spend more than two weeks in the area, since Pakistan’s government suspected that any photographer opting to spend months there was surely up to no good. Berruti’s used his time well, depicting the long winter months when the Swat Valley is snowed in and isolated from the outside world. And the quiet moments appear to have been captured after weeks of Berruti winning the trust of locals and being able to melt into the background. As VU’s creator Christian Caujolle says in the forward to the book, there’s a feeling of “the photographer waiting.”

Given this intensely conservative area, it’s no surprise that women are completely absent from the exhibition—an unfortunate vacuum, given that Berruti focused so deeply on the Lashkars’ daily life. Berruti says he asked several times to photograph women, until he realized that “to continue to ask for this was putting me in a bad light.”

Finally, a disclaimer: I was a member of the jury for the first Carmignac award, which met in Paris in November, 2009. Led by William Klein, we sat around a conference table at the Ritz Hotel, poring over dozens of portfolios in search for a winner. After our discussion dragged on for hours, Edouard Carmignac—who heads the investment company and created the prize—finally walked over from his office on the Place Vendôme and suggested we continue over (what else?) a long lunch. He then listened intently to the discussion, enthralled at the excitement the prize had evoked. After hours of fine food and wine, Carmignac admitted to having his own favorite for winner, but insisted that the process was a “democracy,” in which he had no say. His prize is aimed at picking one photographer each year to spend months in an area which Carmignac believes is under-covered; the first year focused on Gaza, and the third commission is Zimbabwe. Despite the big prize, Carmignac is strangely not flooded with submissions; there are 76 submissions for the prize Berruti won, and fewer than that this year. In the introduction to Berruti’s book, Carmignac writes that photojournalism needs “lucidity and courage, a hardened character, and nerves of steel.” And sometimes, it needs backers like Carmignac.

Massimo Berruti is a photographer based in Paris and Rome. Lashkars is on vew at the Chapelle des Beaux-arts in Paris until December 3, 2011. See more of his work here.

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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Ten years ago, U.S. forces began bombing Afghanistan in retaliation against its Taliban rulers who refused to hand over the al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Within weeks, the air strikes had helped Afghan opponents topple the Taliban, but in the decade since, the deposed Islamist fighters have returned to mount an ever more aggressive insurgency against an Afghan government backed by the United States and NATO. Since U.S. President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. force has tripled in size, but Washington and NATO now plan to begin withdrawing and to hand over responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to Afghan forces by 2014.

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Following the attacks on 9/11, Kate Brooks, at the age of 23, moved to Pakistan and began documenting the region—photographing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, daily life in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and the historic revolutions in Egypt and Libya. Her ten-year odyssey is chronicled in the new book, “In the Light of Darkness: A Photographer’s Journey After 9/11”. The following is an excerpt.

December 2001

Nearly two months had passed since America started bombing Afghanistan and Kabul had already fallen. I couldn’t believe I was still in Pakistan.

Watching the war on TV frustrated me. I wanted to see these things myself, not through the eyes of other reporters. I finally acquired a digital camera and freed myself of all other commitments, but I didn’t know where to go.

The UN was charging $2500 for a one-way ticket to Kabul. The alternative was to drive, but four journalists had just been executed on the road I would have to take.

After I spotted a newsflash that Osama bin Laden was believed to be in the mountains of Tora Bora, I decided to head to Jalalabad. I went independent of any assignment, knowing Newsweek was thinking of assigning me. A few other journalists and I organized a convoy.

A Pakistani fixer called Imtiaz voluntarily followed me through Pakistan’s Khyber Pass as far as the border. The father of two was appealing a death sentence after being convicted of blasphemy by the government of Pakistan. Even so, he knew I was driving into danger and felt protective of me. After the Pakistani immigration officer stamped my passport, Imtiaz shook my hand, wished me well and left me with the parting words, “Welcome to Afghanistan.”

Just after the convoy crossed the border, an Italian journalist began giving me a hard time for wearing a red shalwar kamiz, saying I wouldn’t blend in. I shrugged. I was wearing traditional Pakistani clothes. “Color won’t make a difference,” I said. Whereas male journalists could grow beards and wear local clothes, I knew that in Afghanistan I would be spotted as a foreigner unless I wore a burqa.

I was excited and anxious about covering a war in Afghanistan for an American news magazine and national paper. I had been shot at by Israelis during the second intifada and gone on a few Russian government-controlled trips to Chechnya, but I had never been on an active battlefield. And yet, while I was the youngest journalist covering Tora Bora, I certainly wasn’t the only one with limited war experience. The 9/11 attacks turned a generation of metro desk reporters into war correspondents practically overnight.

In the early hours of the morning, dozens of Jeeps and pickup trucks gathered outside the hotel to take us to the front lines. On the way, one journalist’s car broke down, splitting the convoy in two. While the lead cars waited for the rest to catch up, we watched a B-52 circle overhead. There was genuine fear we might be bombed. A few journalists tried to call Pentagon officials on their satellite phones, hoping to convey to the pilots that the large convoy was comprisedof journalists, not terrorists.

We drove through the residential area of Hadda Farm, where bin Laden had lived with the militants he had trained for global jihad. On the side of the road, an exceptionally tall man stood with a cloth draped over his head in ‘Gulfie Arab’ fashion. I watched this distinctive Arab-looking man turn to look at the bombing of the mountains. As our cars neared, he skittered off the road just before I could see his face.

Pierre laughed at the suggestion that I may have seen bin Laden, but we were driving so fast he hadn’t seen the shadowy figure and we couldn’t stop the speeding convoy. Could the mythical figure and most wanted man in the world possibly have been hiding in plain view? In my mind, it was entirely plausible that bin Laden could be in the vicinity with all attention focused on the mountains.

We eventually arrived at the staging ground, a desolate stretch of pebbles set against the backdrop of mountains that were being bombarded with “daisy cutters”, bunker busting bombs that were also used to flatten jungles in Vietnam. The explosive sounds from heavy artillery being launched from an old Soviet tank forced me to my knees. My body reacted reflexively to the boom. I tried to hide my embarrassment after being spotted flailing around. Someone kindly assured me the rounds were outgoing fire from the Eastern Alliance side.

Over the next few days, TV crews set up live stations and journalists began camping out in the makeshift parking lot. Pierre wanted to go deeper into the mountains. I did not. “Maybe you don’t know what you can do,” he said.

I wanted to avoid unnecessary risks, but in a hurried moment, I got into a vehicle with the mayor of Jalalabad and the Washington Post correspondent. The latter assured me we weren’t doing anything dangerous. The mayor then proceeded to drive straight into the mountains I had just photographed being bombed. I was breathless and spoke little. There was no translator in the car to whom I could convey my concerns or pose questions to ascertain what exactly we were doing.

Suddenly, Haji Zaman appeared, perched on a rock, as if in his natural habitat. He and the mayor exchanged a few words before we drove on. Somehow, seeing the familiar warlord made the situation seem less threatening.

As we parked the vehicle, dozens of journalists, who had followed the mayor’s SUV, pulled up behind us. Two of the most experienced war correspondents covering the offensive were already there viewing al-Qaeda’s fighting positions. They were in a hurry to get down the mountain, saying that they suspected that mortars were about to start coming in.

My stomach sank as I watched them walk away. Everyone else had marched up a hilltop to get a closer look. I looked around and realized I was standing alone with a war-crazed Mujahedeen fighter, who had been camouflaged in the trees. I was too afraid to go up and too afraid to go down. We listened to the deafening rumble of a bomber flying overhead. I could tell the plane was coming closer. Amused by my apparent fear, the fighter pointed at the sky “America. America. U.S.A. No Problem.”

I imagined how devastated my parents would be if they were informed that their 24-year old daughter had been killed in the mountains of Afghanistan and promised God I would quit smoking if I survived.

Brooks’ will moderate a projection of her work tonight at The Half King in Manhattan, followed by a discussion with writer Scott Anderson. An exhibition of her photographs will be on display at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida, through December 16. Click here for more details.

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In the 10 years since the attacks of 9/11, much has changed in the world. Led by the United States, western nations invaded and occupied Afghanistan and later Iraq, removing their rulers and unleashing sectarian violence and insurgencies. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have lost their lives at a cost of trillions of dollars, and western military forces remain in both countries. A third war, the War on Terror, has driven changes in the U.S. that have pushed against the limits of what American society will accept in return for security -- measures such as pre-emptive military strikes, indefinite detentions, waterboarding, wiretapping, and invasive airport security systems. As we remember those lost on September 11, 2001, and construction of the new skyscrapers in Manhattan nears completion, most U.S, troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this year and Afghanistan by 2014. Here is a look at some of the events of the post-9/11 decade, and some of the progress still being made. This entry is part three of a three-part series on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks -- (see also Part 1: The Week Before and Part 2: The Day of the Attacks). [46 photos]

A test of the Tribute in Light rises above lower Manhattan, on September 6, 2011, in New York City. The memorial, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, will light the sky on the evening of September 11, 2011, in honor of those who died ten years ago in the terror attacks on the United States. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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Ten years ago, 19 men trained by al-Qaeda carried out a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States that had been planned for years. The attackers simultaneously hijacked four large passenger aircraft with the intention of crashing them into major landmarks in the United States, inflicting as much death and destruction as possible. Three of the planes struck their targets; the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In a single day, these deliberate acts of mass murder killed nearly 3,000 human beings from 57 countries. More than 400 of the dead were first responders, including New York City firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. It was one of the most-covered media events of all time, and after a decade, the images are still difficult to view. These attacks and the global reaction to them have profoundly shaped the world we live in, so it remains important to see the images and remember just what happened on that dark day. This entry is part two of a three-part series on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks -- (see also Part 1: The Week Before and Part 3: The Decade Since). [50 photos]

The Statue of Liberty, seen from a vantage point in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the lower Manhattan skyline is shrouded in smoke following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Photo taken on September 15, 2001. (AP Photo/Dan Loh)

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On September 11, 2001, photography editors across the world, overcome with a deluge of devastating imagery, faced the daunting task of selecting photos that would go on to define a catastrophe like no other. A decade later, TIME asked a wide variety of the industry’s leading photo editors, photographers, authors, educators, and bloggers to tell us which image moved them most—and why.

Some couldn’t choose one single image. Vin Alabiso, head of photography at the Associated Press on September 11, 2001, said, “Of the thousands of images that were captured, I thought only a handful would truly resonate with me. I was wrong. As a document of a day filled with horror and heroism, the collective work of so many professionals and amateurs leaves its own indelible mark on our memory.”

Holly Hughes, editor of Photo District News, said she was moved most by the photographs of the missing people that blanketed the city in the days after 9/11. “The images that can still move me to tears are the snapshots of happy, smiling people looking out from the homemade missing posters that were taped to signposts and doorways and mailboxes,” she said. “How those posters were made, the state of mind of the people who stood at Xerox machines to make copies, it’s too painful to contemplate. Those flyers stayed up around the city for weeks, through wind and rain, and became entwined with the sorrow and anxiety we carried with us day after day.”

Alabiso added, “A decade later, I could only wish that the most memorable photo of September 11, 2001, would not have been memorable at all…simply two towers silhouetted against a clear azure-blue sky.”

To visit TIME’s Beyond 9/11: A Portrait of Resilience, a project that chronicles 9/11 and its aftermath, click here.

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The attacks of September 11th, 2001 came as a huge surprise, shocking the world and immediately dominating the news around the world. Ten years later, the reverberations from that shock and the varying reactions to it continue to affect nearly everyone in ways large and small. While most people remember where they were on that day, it can be difficult to recall what else was happening in the days just before. I thought it would be interesting to go through the newswires and find photos of events taking place around the world during the week of September 3 to September 10, 2001. Some of the photos are directly related to the upcoming attacks, or the fallout that resulted, many have nothing at all to do with the attacks, but simply show glimpses of what was happening at that time. Gathered here is a time capsule of images taken during this week of September, one decade ago, before everything changed. This entry is part one of a three-part series on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks -- (see also Part 2: The Day of the Attacks and Part 3: The Decade Since). [41 photos]

A view of the New York City skyline with the World Trade Center at sunset taken from the US Open at the UATA National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, on September 5, 2001. (Jamie Squire/Allsport/Getty Images)

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